What is the State Bird of Washington? – American Goldfinch Facts


Written by

Clinton Atkins



George Dukes

what is the state bird of washington

The state of Washington is also called the “Evergreen State”, due to its beautiful forests. It might make you wonder, among the various species in its ever-green forest, what is the state bird of Washington? The answer is the Willow Goldfinch (Spinus tristis).

This yellow songbird is a favorite choice for state birds in two other states apart from Washington. Read on to discover more nice-to-know details about this bird.

About the Willow Goldfinch


The Willow goldfinch is the official state bird of Washington, it was chosen by the schoolchildren of the state during an election in 1951.

Scientific Name: Spinus tristis
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Fringillidae
Common Names: Willow Goldfinch, American Goldfinch, Eastern goldfinch
Diet: Seed-eater (granivore)
Habitat: Open woodlands
Nesting: Shrub
Conservation: Species of Least Concern
Body length:  11–14 centimeters
Wing span: 19–22 centimeters
Weight: 11–20 grams

The goldfinch is also the state bird of two other states aside from Washington and includes the states of New Jersey and Iowa, where it is referred to as the Eastern Goldfinch.

The Washington state bird, commonly called the Willow Goldfinch, is a small passerine songbird of the family Fringillidae.

It is ever present in Washington year-round in most parts of the state. It is one of the yellow birds in western Washington, except in the Northwestern parts, where they migrate only during the breeding season.

This yellow and black bird found in Washington State is a member of the finch family, is a migratory bird and is the only one from this group that goes through molting twice a year, during spring and autumn. The male and female goldfinch are sexually dimorphic, meaning they have physical characteristics that differentiate both sexes.

The Willow Goldfinch: What It Looks Like

1. Female goldfinch


The female Washington goldfinch has a somewhat dull yellow color, as seen in pictures, usually described as olive. The wings and tail are brownish. The female also displays the characteristic bars on its wings as seen on its male counterpart.

2. Male goldfinch


After undergoing the spring molting process, the male willow goldfinch will appear with a bright yellow body, distinctive black cap, and white rear feathers. The wings are also black with white bars. These eye-catching colors will propel its chances of finding a mate during the breeding season.

The male goldfinch also takes on a muted yellow color during the winter season. Compared to the other subspecies of the American goldfinch, the willow goldfinch has a smaller black cap.

Facts About the Willow Goldfinch Bird

Let’s discover some fascinating facts about one of the most common birds of Washington state:

  • The WA state bird is a known seed eater, so it is no surprise to find a group of willow goldfinch in your garden feeders. They like to eat sunflower seeds, thistle, and aster seeds. They also prefer seeds from trees such as elm, alder, and birch.
  • Willow goldfinches can be found in open woodlands, meadows, grasslands, or fields where weeds grow, which is ideal for them. During the summer, they breed across the North American region from Canada to North Carolina and even up to the US west coast in northern California.


  • Male willow goldfinches usually start courting the females in July while sporting their bright yellow plumage. Courtship involves rituals of singing and flight. Once they pair, the female will start building the nest in late summertime.
  • A female goldfinch can lay 4-6 eggs per brood. The eggs are light blue with brown spots, and the incubation period lasts 12-14 days. Raising and feeding the young is the work of both male and female goldfinch. The nestlings will usually leave the nest after 11-17 days.


  • The willow goldfinch is known for its wave-like movement when flying. It can sometimes be seen perching on flowers or branches doing a balancing act like an acrobat. This energetic bird also emits its popular po-ta-to-chip call during its flight.

Frequently Asked Questions

When did the willow goldfinch become the state bird for Washington

The willow goldfinch was chosen as one of the Washington state symbols, specifically as the state bird, in the year 1951 after the majority of schoolchildren chose it.

Why is the goldfinch Washington’s state bird?

Washington started voting for a state bird as early as the year 1928. During this election, the meadowlark was chosen, but this was not passed into legislation because Oregon has just declared the same bird as the state symbol.

In 1931, almost three years after the first contest, the American goldfinch was chosen over three other birds, but this was not passed into law as well.

Finally, in 1951 the schoolchildren of the state were asked to do the honors of choosing the state bird of Washington. They solidly voted for the Willow goldfinch to make it the official state bird.

What are the other notable Washington State Symbols?

Aside from the willow goldfinch being the state bird of Washington, the other state symbols worth mentioning are the following:

  • State Fruit: Apple
  • State Fossil: Columbian Mammoth
  • State Flower: Coast Rhododendron
  • State Fish: Steelhead Trout
  • State Insect: Green Darner Dragonfly
  • State Marine Animal: Orca Whale
  • State Motto: Into the Future
  • State Tree: Western Hemlock


The Willow goldfinch is a ubiquitous bird of Washington state, and its loyal presence has endeared it to the residents. It is no wonder it has earned a special place in WA as an official state symbol since 1951. Now you know what is the state bird of Washington, the willow goldfinch.

 If you enjoyed reading this article, share this with your friends and followers. Look out for this yellow and black bird when you visit Washington!

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